It’s been rough for LG over the past several months. The G5 was frustratingly mediocre, and the V20, a high-end flagship with a second screen, was ultimately overshadowed by the Google Pixel. So, what’s a company to do when its ideas—good and bad—don’t resonate with consumers?
Rather than jump into completely new territory, LG has opted to hone in on the basics—and the G6 is the result. The device isn’t overly flashy, nor is it particularly complicated. It’s just… a phone, and a very good one at that.
Without the failed “magic slot,” the merits of the G6 can be more thoroughly appreciated. Things like the device’s design, features, and screen. But, therein lies the problem.
Without bringing anything wholly new to the table, the G6 can occasionally feel too familiar and underwhelming. You can get virtually the same experience from 90 percent of the other Android phones on the market. This one happens to be around $600 dollars.
The G6’s headlining feature—and something we’ll see a lot of in 2017—is its 5.7-inch display, which has barely any bezel. The screen’s odd 18:9 aspect ratio means it takes up nearly the entirety of the front of the device—goodbye ugly bezels.
What’s nice is the larger display doesn’t mean the device itself is big. The G6’s overall footprint is fairly small—at just 148.9 x 71.9 mm—for a phone with such a huge display. The Nexus 6P, by contrast, has a 5.7-inch screen with dimensions of 159.3 x 77.8 mm. When holding the two side-by-side, that difference in size is striking.
The screen isn’t just taller for the sake of it. LG utilizes the weird aspect ratio with some cool software flourishes, which we’ll get to. It works well for some video though not all. Video on YouTube is commonly shot at 16:9, so you’ll see black bars quite a lot.
Beyond the display, the G6 is a terrifically engineered device. The all-glass design is luxurious and beautiful, and subtly curved to ergonomically fit in the hand. The aluminum frame, meanwhile, feels astonishingly solid. Not that you’d purposefully mistreat your device, but the G6 appears to hold up very well in violent durability tests.
Which is to say, the G6 is impeccably made, featuring an elegant, seamless, and comfortable design that’s right up there with the best of them. Dare I say, it’s slightly more elegant than the Galaxy S8. It features a seemingly stronger frame, perfectly placed fingerprint sensor/power button combo, and dual rear-facing cameras.
The screen’s minimal bezel only adds to the device’s premium allure, and there’s no garish camera hump. The device also sports a 3.5mm headphone jack, and it features IP68 water and dust resistance.
There aren’t any obvious knocks against the G6’s hardware. That’s not to say it’s the most advanced device out there—not by a long shot. Put it next to its closest rival, the Galaxy S8, and there are a few major differences: The G6 doesn’t include any biometric features beyond a fingerprint sensor, and there is no pressure sensitive home button.
Whether you put value in those features is subjective. I will say this: My only real knock against the G6’s design is the LG logo beneath the display. Even with a slimmer bezel, the company, it seems, couldn’t resist.
The G6 also sports last year’s Snapdragon 821 chip, which is still plenty spry. Combined with 4GB of RAM, and you have a device that never feels out of date. Had you not known what processor lived inside the handset, you wouldn’t complain about the G6 being slow.
However, you might find yourself complaining about the battery life. When the G6 was introduced, the company talked at length about battery safety in response to the Galaxy Note 7’s recall. LG execs said it could have included a larger battery, but instead went the conservative route with a 3,300mAh unit.
That’s by no means small and, in fact, it’s larger than the 3,000mAh battery inside of the Galaxy S8. Unfortunately, you’ll still be searching for the charger by early evening, which is to be expected from most modern smartphones. You can only eke out so much battery from such technologically advanced super devices.
But the trade-off is worth it, because it means you get a really cool dual-camera system—something not even the Galaxy S8 offers. The setup isn’t necessarily new to LG users—or even iPhone 7 Plus expatriates, for that matter—and it’s really where the device excels.
There are standard zoom and wide-angle lens that makes it easy to capture more of a scene. Having two high-quality 13-megapixel cameras provides users with much more flexibility in different scenarios. Outdoor photographers will find the wide-angle lens particularly useful; the standard zoom is great for everyday images of pets, friends, family, etc.
If you want to see how the G6’s quality compares to something like the Galaxy S8, check out a versus we did a few weeks back.
As we’ve seen from previous LG phones, the device’s camera software is top-notch. If you like tweaking settings and controlling things like exposure, white balance, and more, you’ll dig what the G6 has to offer. I can appreciate being able to manually control the camera before taking a shot, though I’m sure most people are perfectly content to leave it on auto.
Whatever you decide—manual, auto, somewhere in between—the G6 will produce excellent images (both in low and adequate lighting).
Our time with the G6 has been mostly positive, but the software leaves a lot to be desired. Compared to the clean, easy-to-use skin found in the Galaxy S8, the G6’s software feels overly cartoony and bright. And I’m not a fan of the default home screen layout, which ditches the app drawer for something closer to what you’d find in iOS. (The good news is you can change it.)
When it launched, the G6 was the first non-Pixel device to run Google Assistant, which can be summoned by holding the home button. Whether you find value in Google’s digital assistant is down to personal preference. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of any digital assistant—I primarily use an iPhone and never use Siri. I find Assistant more amusing in Allo, Google’s floundering cross-platform chat app, but I digress.
Which is all to say, the look and feel of the G6’s software isn’t up to par with other options on the market. It offers its fair share of cool features—KnockON will never not be cool, and the gallery preview in the camera app is immensely helpful. But it’s a bit of a mixed bag for me, clashing with the device’s immaculate hardware design and vibrant display.
Although it looks somewhat similar to the Galaxy S8, the G6 is its own device. Following the underwhelming response to last year’s G5—will modular phones ever catch on?—LG went back to basics, introducing a no-nonsense device that cautiously dips a toe in the future of smartphones.
The G6 doesn’t offer any flashy biometrics and it didn’t introduce a promising (but unfinished) digital assistant. It features a conservatively-sized battery and last year’s standout processor. But it also sports a wonderful design, gorgeous display, and a next level camera. Just because it’s note quite as technologically advanced as the Galaxy S8 doesn’t mean you should skip it.
There are many reasons why the G6 is superior to the Galaxy S8, as many have rightly pointed out. It’s all about what you want from a phone—and, most importantly, how that device makes you feel. If you pick up the G6 and make an immediate connection, then it’s the handset for you. Get it.
You’ll be perfectly happy with LG’s flagship, even if it doesn’t feature an iris scanner, the latest processor, or any sort of modularity. In many ways, the G6 isn’t a risk—some might say the company played it too safe—but not all risks are worth taking.
At around $600, LG has produced a solid phone that deserves to stand next to the S8.
Photos by Ralph Llerenas